Montgomery Co. council to vote Thursday on parking rate hike

The Montgomery County Council will hold the final vote Thursday on whether to increase parking rates in the county’s three parking districts.

In a vote Tuesday, the nine members agreed to hold off on increasing parking rates in Silver Spring, and to delay expanding the hours for paid parking in Wheaton.

They proposed any increase to on-street parking in Bethesda should be held to a maximum of $3.25 an hour, down from the $4 proposed in the plan from County Executive Marc Elrich.

Council member Andrew Friedson, who represents Bethesda, expressed some concern with the timing of the increase, pointing out that it comes during the county’s budget process, when the focus is on big-ticket items lawmakers.

Speaking during Tuesday’s council meeting, Friedson said of the parking fee plan, “This is kind of a side note until it’s not, and when it’s not, it blows up” and leaves residents with a feeling of sticker shock.

Council member Evan Glass said he was skeptical of any plan to raise parking fees in the county’s parking garages, lots and on-street meters, but said the money is used to maintain parking facilities and beautify downtown areas: “It’s not a money grab.”

Glass also said businesses had explained that without parking space turnover, their bottom line takes a hit.

In Wheaton, for example, Glass said, “Between the construction and all the renters who are occupying the parking spaces in the parking lots and on the streets, we need to do something differently.”

But, Council member Tom Hucker said that though Wheaton and Silver Spring businesses are affected by construction projects that hinder customers from access to parking, a delay in rate increases would be a better approach.

“We can see the light at the tunnel in Wheaton from where we are now,” said Hucker, referring to the expected completion of construction. “When we get to the end of the tunnel — that to me is the right time to raise parking fees” and not when businesses are currently suffering.

Council member Hans Riemer voiced his support for going ahead with expanding the hours for paid parking in Wheaton until 10 p.m.

“I share the concern that metered parking until 10 is maybe pushing the limit a little bit, but if it’s the only way to get spots available for local businesses, it’s better than the status quo,” Riemer said.

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